When it comes to Canadian Spirits there are a lot of interesting events in the works right now. We have new craft and micro distilleries popping up across the country and even quite a few right here in Alberta. Many of these distilleries will experiment with whisky down the line – but for most, we have to hurry up and wait to see what whisky they will release years from now. There is a reason for that.
In order to state that your bottle is Canadian Whisky, the contents must have spent at least three years ageing in a wooden barrel no larger than 700 litres in size. It must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV.
With so many new distilleries coming online in the past few years there are a plethora barrels quietly ageing away in various distilleries and warehouses – patiently waiting for the opportunity to eventually be called whisky. There are some that are close:
Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley could actually release their first Single Malt Whisky this fall if they choose to do so. They will have barrel aged spirit that meets the 3-year minimum at that point. We will just have to wait and see if Eau Claire feels it is ready for release when that happens… They also do Gin, Vodka and some cool limited releases seasonally.
Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, BC just celebrated it’s 2nd birthday this June. Kensington Wine Market has its own barrel ageing there. It just passed the one year of age mark. In the meantime, grab their Noteworthy Gin when you can.
Our store also has a barrel with Last Best Brewery and Distillery right here in Calgary. It is about seven months old right now. They also have excellent beer by the keg and are starting to release their Gins as well.
Shelter Point Distillery on Vancouver Island has sold out of it first Single Malt whisky release. We should be getting the 2nd edition from them later this year.
So what do these distilleries sell in the meantime if they do not yet have whisky to sell? Typically the sell clear spirits such as gin and vodka. Park Distillery does these and more as seen with the first bottle we tasted in the lineup:
Park Distillery Glacier Rye
As mentioned above – Park Distillery is located in Banff. It is actually a Restaurant which happens to also have a micro-distillery operating within. It is definitely worth a visit and a tour if when you have a chance to head for the mountains.
Park Glacier Rye is made from 100% organic Alberta-grown Rye grain. This is an unaged rye that never touched a barrel. $52
Caldera Hurricane 5
Caldera Distillery is located in River John, Nova Scotia. The distillery is named after a ship that was built in River John way back in 1884. This bottle takes its name from a Hurricane that hit the coast of Atlantic Canada on October 18th, 1939. Caldera now grows its own grain which includes Rye, Corn and Barley for their whisky production.
The first release of Caldera Hurricane 5 (batch #0001) was sourced from a distillery in Western Canada. After it was distilled using Caldera’s own grain to Distiller Jarret Stuart’s specifications It was shipped to Caldara to finish ageing and be bottled at 40% ABV. $45
Pike Creek 10yr Rum Barrel Finish
Pike Creek is part of a trifecta of higher end and very good Canadian Whiskies released by Corby Distillers. The others in the series being Lot 40 and Gooderham & Worts. Originally released as a Port Cask Finish – this new release is finished in Rum Casks. The Rum cask influence definitely shines through. 42% ABV. $42
Wiser’s Legacy is a blended rye whisky created using unmalted rye grain, malted rye, and malted barley. The components are distilled in copper pot stills instead of column stills. Some of the Rye used to make the also excellent Lot 40 Rye may be used in making Legacy as well.
Part of what makes Wiser’s Legacy unique is the use of virgin toasted oak barrels for ageing the whisky instead of the more typical refill/ex-bourbon barrels. This helps marry more spice notes into the rye. Bottled at 45% ABV. $57
Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky
The original Wiser’s Red Letter Rye was first made in 1857. It reintroduced in 2007 as a limited production to celebrate the first bottle’s 150th Anniversary. The current bottling is a wider release that started in 2013. Like all Wiser’s Whisky, it is made at Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario.
The current edition is a re-creation by Dr Don Livermore, master distiller at J.P. Wiser’s and possibly the most well-known whisky maker in Canada. It is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in virgin oak casks. It is also non-chill filtered. Bottled at 45% ABV. $110
Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Whisky
Lohin McKinnon gets its name from the two people behind the whisky: Gary Lohin and Stuart McKinnon of Central City Brewing and Distilling in Surry, B.C. Central City has been around been around since 2003 as a brewery. A decade later in 2013 they started distilling. The do a variety of spirits including multiple gin and vodka. Lohin McKinnin is their first whisky. It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 43% ABV. $62
Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Release 5
The 5th release from Two Brewers, an offshoot of Yukon Brewing, is an “Innovative” single malt made from a sour mash.
What does a sour mash process lend to this whisky? The label states: ‘Influences from a sour mash distillation create a broad spectrum of sensations, from bright and briny nose to a finish of sweet dried fruit and nuts.” Bottled in February of 2017 at 43% ABV. 1380 total bottles. $100
Shelter Point Distiller’s Select Cask StrengthThis bottle ended up selling out after the tasting.
$SOLD OUT – Watch for a new Shelter Point release to hit our shelves later this year!
Only 1000 bottles were released of this limited Christmas bottling from Shelter Point. Only the 2nd distillery bottling, it was created by marrying 4 casks of single malt and 1 cask of straight rye whisky. Initially matured in American oak the whisky was finished in “very special” French Oak barrels. The whisky has been bottled at 58.4%, only 90 bottles are coming to Alberta.
There you have it: 7 different whiskies plus one unaged spirit from all over our fair Country. Here were the favourites of those in attendance:
3rd Place: Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Whisky
Thank you to everybody in attendance and a big thank you to Cured Delicatessen for providing the food compliment!
The lineup showcased some new players in Canadian Whisky – especially on the single malt side of things. It also had three releases from one of the oldest distilleries still in operation in Canada – one that we sometimes look over but still makes some great whisky. It also included a Rye that was not whisky at all – but hopefully showed the promise things yet to come to fruition.
The bottom line in all of this is that if you have not had any Canadian Whisky in a while and want to see what all of the fuss is then you have plenty of good quality and sometimes inexpensive bottles to choose from.
If you want to eventually taste whisky from the new kids on the block at some of the Craft Distilleries? Be patient and start drinking their Gin!
Cheers and until next time,
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky // @sagelikefool